As the title suggests, the episode deals with the splintering relationships of Rachel and Finn, Kurt and Blaine, Santana and Brittany, and Emma and Will - some of which will come crashing down completely by the end. For the most part though, the spotlight is on Finn (Cory Monteith) and Blaine (Darren Criss), who both surprise their respective partners by turning up unannounced at their pad in New York.
For literally about a second everything is good and happy, but it's clear that both couples have issues that can't be papered over by skipping around in Central Park. Finn is still struggling with self-confidence issues, having been discharged from the army after 16 days for accidentally shooting himself. Sitting in on Rachel's NYADA class, he begins to realise that he doesn't belong in the 'biz and his doubt finally gets the better of him completely when he sees how well Rachel and Brody compliment each other on a duet of Demi Lovato's 'Give Your Heart A Break' at a student bar.
Blaine steps up next to perform a stripped-down, piano version of Katy Perry's 'Teenage Dream', the first song he ever sung to Kurt. We need to give a major round of applause for Darren Criss here - his performance is by far the best of the season and arguably one of the most impactful ever seen on Glee. With tears practically flooding his lungs, you both hear Blaine's voice and feel the man himself creaking wonderfully under the emotion of it all. It's gorgeous and heartbreaking.
As the couples are walking home, Kurt later confronts Blaine about his particularly emotional performance and the former Warbler admits that he cheated after feeling abandoned by Kurt, presumably with a mystery man he's been texting named Eli C. A few steps in front of them, Finn asks Rachel whether she is attracted to Brody and Rachel comes clean about their kiss. Everyone's relationships now ruined by the revelations, the foursome collaborate on a frustrated, crushed rendition of No Doubt's 'Don't Speak'. The choreography of the scene, with the couples lying side-by-side in bed, singing their hearts out but not saying a word to each other, is wonderful.
The thought of Rachel and Brody together is too much for Finn and he sneaks out in the middle of the night, pausing only to share a quick brotherly moment with Kurt. He returns to McKinley and comes to Mr Schuester for a little cry on his shoulder (we don't want to ruin the moment, but that whole dynamic is still so weird). He sits in on the glee club rehearsal and has an excitable reunion with the members of New Directions, as well as a slightly more tense one with Blaine, who's back from New York with no idea of his relationship status. Finn suggests that they choose Grease for their upcoming school production, and everyone loves the idea - he's back where he belongs.
It's strange and satisfyingly confusing that we can accept and perhaps forgive Finn and Blaine for their sneaky behaviour this episode. Glee have done a great job of explaining just why they did what they did. In the case of Blaine, the hints have been coming all season via the shots of him staring longingly at his blank phone, while Finn's lack of self-belief has been present right from the very start of the show itself. The Glee team deserve credit for being able to make us feel for these two while they're breaking the hearts of two of the show's most popular characters.
With all the good stuff going on in New York, it's a shame that Santana and Brittany's relationship troubles are explored in such a ridiculous fashion. See, Brittany has started attending an 'End of Days' after-school club held by Kitty, and drags Santana along too. After the vicious cheerleader instructs everyone to prank one of their own with a fake rapture, Brittany clumsily brings up that she too feels 'left behind' by Santana. It's pretty darn stupid (especially since Kitty has now officially become a clone of Quinn Fabray), but the storyline is thankfully saved by a later scene in the choir room where the couple address their issues without having to tie them in to a sloppy bit of comic relief.
Santana admits that she misses glee club because it allowed her to express her feelings for Brittany through song when she couldn't find the words. And now she has to tell Brittany, via a face-to-face performance of Taylor Swift's 'Mine', that they have to do "the mature thing" and end their long distance relationship. The Brittana break-up is certainly low key compared to all the passionate, shouty stuff in New York, but in a way that makes it more relatable. We don't have to tell you that many relationships in the real world don't end in screaming matches or bouts of hysterical tears, but with a quiet, agreement that things aren't working out.
The only one of the major couples to be totally mismanaged is Will and Emma. The two only share one scene together the whole episode, where Will reveals that he's officially on the blue ribbon panel. He suggests they go to Washington together, but their joy turns to bickering when Emma refuses to take time away from her job to follow him around "like an obedient puppy dog". Their 'issues' all feel very last-minute and they're not fleshed out enough for us to really feel much for the pair among all the other brilliantly crafted stuff.
Oh, and there's one more break-up that we didn't see coming this episode (mainly because we forgot they were together) - Jake and Kitty. He dumps her in a second when she starts making fun of Marley and her mum, their split played for laughs as Kitty swears vengeance on them both and hisses that "Obama's gonna lose".
Given everything that's come before in the episode and all the big talking before it even aired, nobody really should be expecting a happy ending. When Rachel turns up at McKinley in the final minutes of the episode and tracks Finn down to the auditorium, a place that has so many special memories for them, you know she's not there to seek a reconciliation. It's not that they no longer care for each other, of course - Rachel gives a passionate speech about no matter what happens in her life, Finn will always be her first love and hopefully her last - it's just that being together is too hard.
So as Glee's former first couple are joined by the other troubled lovers and ex-lovers for a ghostly rendition of Coldplay's 'The Scientist', we wouldn't hold it against you for shedding a tear over the fictional separations or even your own personal heartbreaks; for 'The Break Up' succeeded in capturing that horrible moment most of you must understand when you feel something beautiful falling apart and start embracing the idea that you can't or shouldn't be with someone you love. Though it is a tad depressing and felt occasionally thrown together, it resonates deeper than a Glee episode has done for a very long time - Lea, Naya, we'll forgive you for boasting.
What do you think of this week's Glee episode? Leave your comments below!